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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Dr. Jay Parkinson reminds me of my behavioural Medicine professor this summer. My prof is the picture of health, muscular, lean, and enthusiastic about preventative health care. His classes really challenge me to think creatively about our nation’s health care system. I am currently working on a presentation about the problems associated with health care costs. As I am researching the existing literature, I cam across Dr. Jay, who is all about prevention and helping improve people’s health from a biopsychosocial perspective and blogs are The Future Well.

Check out Dr. Jay’s blog post, “Most health solutions aren’t medical, they’re social,” here. I love his message and it echos research I’ve read about the effects of your social circle on your health. If your friends are sedentary, pizza-eating gamers, you will likely eat a fair share of pizza, game and not move much. If you start hanging out with those that are more active and eat healthier, teach you to cook or a new hobby like hiking or human origami (I just made that one up but it sounds fun doesn’t it!), you are more likely to adopt healthier behaviors. And if you inspire your pizza eating friends to try a hacky sack game or two with you on a regular basis, you may be able to keep your friends and improve your health.

Who is Dr. Jay?

Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH

(From his blog site)

Instead of pills and scalpels, Dr. Jay Parkinson uses creative design to improve health. He’s been called “The Doctor of the Future” and one of the “Top Ten Most Creative People in Healthcare” by Fast Company. Esquire Magazine included him in 2009’s “Best and Brightest: Radicals and Rebels Who Are Changing the World” issue.

Jay is a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist with a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins. After completing residency, he started a practice for his neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in September 2007. People would visit his website; see his Google calendar; choose a time and input their symptoms; his iPhone would alert him; he’d make a house call; they’d pay him via Paypal; and he’d follow up by email, IM, videochat, or in person. This concept led to Jay co-founding Hello Health, a novel way of experiencing healthcare via a Facebook-like platform that uses technology — including email, instant messaging, and video chat — to restore the traditional doctor-patient relationship but updated for today’s lifestyle.

He’s been called “The Doctor of the Future” and one of the “Top Ten Most Creative People in Healthcare” by Fast Company. Esquire Magazine included him in 2009′s “Best and Brightest: Radicals and Rebels Who Are Changing the World” issue. He’s been featured in GOOD Magazine, CNN, Newsweek, and Health Affairs. The leading trade publication for hospital and system executives, Hospitals and Health Networks, dedicated a cover article to Jay entitled, Your Future Chief of Staff? Jay also appears in Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin.

Selected Writings of Dr. Jay

BusinessWeek: How to Redesign Healthcare

Design Observer: Road to Wellville. How to redesign a broken healthcare system.

GOOD Magazine: Fixing What Ails the Sickness Industry.

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Downtown Chicago Building Roundup: North

Image by Gravitywave via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I was looking at my WorkingWellResources  blog subscribers and noticed that I’ve got a few blog stalkers.   OK, not stalkers, just fans. One of them is Healthy In Chicago, an easy to read, fun and accessible blog about healthy lifestyle choices for Chicagoans.

What I like about this blog is that it’s not about being perfectly healthy. The blogger admits that it’s about trying to do his/her best at making healthy lifestyle choices. I am certainly not perfect either. I often have to check myself to see if I am practicing what I preach. And sometimes I fall short of the optimal healthy guidelines I would like to adhere to. I am human. And so are my clients. WE strive for our ideals but don’t get overly critical of ourselves when we fall short of perfection! This attitude of acceptance and moderation helps me be less critical and judgmental of my clients and allows them to share their successes and weaknesses with me more easily. So I am happy to introduce you to another blogger that has a similar positive, but not fanatical, outlook on Wellness.

Check out the Top posts on the Healthy In Chicago blog:

Chicago, Meet HealthyinChicago on the blog here. To follow Healthy In Chicago tweets, check out @HealthyNChicago.

Who is the Author of Healthy In Chicago?

The blogger chooses to remain anonymous, but did post some fun factoids about him/herself.

From the Healthy In Chicago Website, the blog author:

  • Is someone who doesn’t always ”practice what they preach” in terms of health advice.  I am not the perfect pinnacle of health.  I truly believe in moderation and not depriving myself of things (food and drinks) I love, which doesn’t always fit within the “recommendations” of healthy living.
  • Has a sweet tooth
  • Makes attempts to make healthy choices and health goals however
  • Has a college degree in Sport Science
  • Employed with IL largest health system, and is responsible for educating the community on health topics that plague Chicagoan’s (diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity, etc)
  • Previous experience as a personal trainer
  • Certified Intrinsic Coach (basically a life coach, someone to motivate you to follow through with the decisions, you have made in your life…example, quitting smoking)

The blogger also states that:

“I came to a point in my life where I was looking for more active, healthier activities and resources in the city…and really couldn’t find them and neither could my friends. So, I thought…why not share the information I find with everyone so they too can have the local resources to enjoy a healthier life, when and if they want to?  And with that Healthy In Chicago was created!”

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Saratoga chips at the Mississippi State Fair i...
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Having a hard time switching from potato chips to carrots? You are not alone! As people in our country continue to grow more and more obese, many research scientists are putting in long hours to investigate biological causes. Last month, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute issued a report that shows -definitively, for the first time- that the same biological processes that cause drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat. Many obese people have been making this statement for years–that they feel out of control after eating junk food, and the more they eat, the more they want.

In the study, scientists monitored brain chemicals in rats, noticing that as the rats got more obese, their brains were less and less able to issue a reward to the body. As this pleasure center in the brain became less and less responsive, the rats developed the tendency to overeat, seeking that chemical reward. This is the exact same pattern that occurs in rats that are administered cocaine or heroin, and scientists believe that the pattern plays a large part in the development of drug dependency.

Paul J. Kenny, an Associate Professor at Scripps, conducted the study. He says that the nearly three year long study confirms the “addictive” properties of junk food:

“The new study, unlike our preliminary abstract, explains what happens in the brain of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food. It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behavior, the primary hallmark of addiction. They continued to overeat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to consume the palatable food.”

The scientists offered the rats many types of food, but they always chose “junk” food. As a test, the researchers removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet. Their preference for junk food was so strong, however, that they starved themselves for nearly two weeks.

To read the entire article, visit the original Press Release.

So if anyone tells you junk food is not addicting, think again. And pass the carrots!

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30 Days of Gratitude- Day 1
Image by aussiegall via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Remember the old adage, to “count your blessings” as  a tool to feel better about your self and your life? Did you know that maintaining an actively grateful personality can actually provide stress relief?

Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami have maintained a study that attempts to help its participants develop methods to cultivate gratitude in daily life and assess that gratitude’s effect on well-being. They say of the project:

“Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research.  We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude.  Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being.  Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept.”

In the research, the scientists had all participants keep diaries of their lives. One of the groups was instructed to specifically look for the positive things that had happened to them that day, and one was instructed to keep a diary as they normally might. Emmons and McCullough discovered that their participants showed a clear correlation between those who kept a “gratitude journal” and a number of positive factors, including exercising regularly, reporting fewer physical symptoms, feeling better about their lives as a whole, and feeling more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.  Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

Not convinced? They also reported that a daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com’s Stress Management Guide, reminds us that “although we are born with specific tempermental tendencies, the brain is a muscle, and you can strengthen your mind’s natural tendency toward optimism if you work at it.”

Scott offers some helpful suggestions for how to encourage gratitude in your own life:

  • Make Gentle Reminders – When you notice yourself beginning to feel negative, try to think of 4 or 5 related things for which you are grateful.
  • Be Careful With Comparisons – Focus on yourself, and stop comparing what you have and do to other people.
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal – Make it a habit to remind yourself of good things that happen to you every day.

Sue’s Gratitude List

I notice that when I am more consciously grateful of all the good things I have in my life: my family, my friends, my work, my clients, my health, my ability to travel and hike and see wonderful natural beauty as well as the Internet and all the “Dick Tracy” gizmo’s we now have to entertain and communicate, I have much better days and a happier demeaner!

I am grateful you are reading my blog!  Start your own gratitude list today and see how you feel. Just list 10 things you are grateful for. Share them with us in the comments if you feel inspired!

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By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

How many New Year’s Eves have you spent sipping champagne and vowing to get more fit in the coming year? And how many times have you failed to follow through?

“December 31 over a drink is too late to set goals and make promises,” says Justin Price, owner of The Biomechanics, a personal training and wellness coaching facility in San Diego, Calif.

Fall, on the other hand, is a great time to start a fitness program because “‘you’re going to create good habits for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months,” says Price.

Chris Freytag, a fitness instructor and fitness expert with Prevention magazine, agrees.

“With the change of seasons comes a renewed time to rethink and restart,” she says. “‘What’s so special about January?”

Besides, says Freytag, a mother of three, moms with school-aged kids “think of September as the new year.”

Here are 10 ways to start making the most of the season. And who knows? This year, you might be in great shape before that New Year’s Eve party rolls around.

1. Take advantage of the weather. Fall can be a treat for the senses: the crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, a gorgeous canopy of fall foliage, and the crunch of leaves underfoot. These months are a great time to exercise outdoors and enjoy cooler temperatures.

“Walking, hiking and cycling are all awesome in the fall,” says Todd Durkin, MS, fitness coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, Calif.

Discover park trails and take in some new scenery, whether you’re walking, biking, or in-line skating, he suggests.

In places where snow falls early, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Or, if you live near the beach, get out and play volleyball, throw the Frisbee around, or play a vigorous game of fetch with your dog.

“It’s a great time to do beach activities because it’s so much less crowded,” says Price.

If you’re near a lake, try kayaking or canoeing, for an excellent whole-body workout and a great change of pace.

And remember, it doesn’t have to seem like exercise to be a great workout.

“Raking leaves or doing some fall outdoor yard work is a great way to get the heart pumping, and it’s great calorie-burning,” says Freytag.

2. Think outside the box. Always wanted to learn to tap dance? Attempt to box? Master the jump rope? Ask any schoolchild: Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Many classes at gyms and elsewhere get started in the fall, so look around and see if something intrigues you.

And with the kids in school, parents have more time to check out those classes, Freytag says.

Fall is the perfect time to gain new physical skills, Price says, because you burn fewer calories when you begin a new activity (thanks to the learning curve). If you learn something new now, by next summer, you’ll have mastered the skill — and you’ll burn more calories doing it, just in time for swimsuit season.

3. Be an active TV watcher. Many people get geared up for fall premieres of their favorite television shows, says Freytag. “If you’re going to sit down and watch hours of TV, get moving,” she suggests. “Make a date with exercise and TV.”

While you watch, you can walk or run in place, do standing lunges, do tricep dips off the couch, or lift weights. During commercials, do push-ups or sit-ups. In a one-hour show, you probably have close to 20 minutes worth of commercial interruption.

4. Integrate exercise into your life. You already know the obvious suggestions: park farther away from your destination; take stairs instead of elevators; take a walk during your lunch break. Here are a few that are less obvious:

* If you’re spending the afternoon taking kids to soccer practice, instead of reading a book or visiting with another parent, “why not walk around the outside of the field while they practice?”, suggests Price. “Or (if you feel comfortable) warm up and cool down with the kids.”
* Or try “walking meetings,” like those Price and his colleagues at Biomechanics often hold. ‘”We go for a walk, we brainstorm, and we figure out who’s going to take what responsibilities,” says Price. “‘Things get achieved much more quickly,” he says, and everyone feels better for doing it.
* You can even get moving while you get motivated — for fitness or other life goals. ‘”Get some inspirational music or find a motivational talk and download it to your iPod,” suggests Durkin. Walk while you listen for 30 minutes.

5. Rejuvenate yourself. Fall is the time to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit, says Durkin. Get a massage after your run. Learn to meditate. Take an art class. Treat yourself not just with exercise but other activities that promote wellness, he says, so you can feel good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

6. Remember the 30-day rule. “‘It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes,” says Price. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days.

So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s darker and colder, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button.

“Try to stick with a program for a month,” Price says. “After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.”

7. Strive for the 3 Cs. Freytag calls commitment, convenience, and consistency “the three Cs”, and says having all three will lead to a successful fitness program.

First, exercise takes commitment. When a client complains to Freytag about a lack of time, she responds: “Tell me something I haven’t heard before. We’re all busy; that’s just part of our lives.

You have to start planning exercise, just like you do everything else,” like meetings, dinners, and getting kids to lessons and practice, she says. “Put in on the calendar, because later always turns into never.”

Convenience means choosing a gym that’s close by, or an activity you can do at home, or a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted.

Finally, there’s consistency. “I’d rather see a brand-new client work out for 10 minutes a day rather than one hour every month,” Freytag says

8. Deal with darkness. The best way to enjoy fall is to exercise outdoors. But it is getting darker earlier, and staying dark later in the morning, so be smart and safe.

“Just because it’s 6 p.m. (or a.m.) and dark doesn’t mean you can’t work out,” says Durkin. If walking or running outdoors, he says, “wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight.”

When cycling, affix a light to your helmet or bike.

If possible, use trails or a local school track to avoid vehicle traffic. Try to work out at the same time every day, so drivers get used to seeing you.

9. Dress in layers. When exercising outside, layer your clothing. Before your body warms up, you may feel chilled, but once the blood gets pumping, you’ll feel overdressed.

These days, there’s no lack of great weather gear. Freytag and Price recommend clothing with wicking, often called “DriFit.”‘ This fabric wicks moisture away from your skin so you’re not exercising with wet fabric hanging on you.

Freytag suggests three layers: “The inner layer should be a moisture-wicking fabric, so it wicks away sweat and you’re not chilled. The second layer should be a warmth layer, and the third layer should be a protective layer (like a windbreaker or rain slicker, depending on the weather).”

“And don’t forget the sunglasses,” she warns. UV protection is important year round. Fall sun can be blinding at certain times of the day.

10. Find your motivation. “People are motivated by different things,” says Durkin. It’s important to first discover what your individual goals are, whether it’s losing weight, strengthening and toning, or preparing for a race or event, says Durkin.

But goals aren’t enough to get you there; you have to be motivated by the day-to-day workouts, he says. So choose something you’ll enjoy doing and will be likely to keep up, whether it’s walking or hiking with a friend, working with a trainer, or taking part in a “boot camp” class.

Creating a challenge for yourself will motivate you, as will encouragement and accountability, he adds. “You want to know when you’re doing a good job, and when you’re not,” says Durkin.

Remember too, that anything worth having takes work.

“Tell me something you can do three times a week for 10 minutes and be great at? It doesn’t exist,” he says. “If it was easy to be great, everybody would be great.”

Link to Barbara Russi Sarnataro’s article here

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

I have had to eat a “healthy” diet for most of my adult life. As a young girl, I ate as much junk food as my peers and my body rebelled. By 20, I could not eat any white or processed sugar because I was hypoglycemic. I developed migrane headaches from chocolate (a former childhood love) and fermented foods like sharp cheeses and wines. White bread made me sick, so I had to switch to whole grain bread even before it was marketed as whole grain bread. Through the years my body let me know, anything overly processed, overly sugared, overly salted, or overly fat was going to give me stabbing pain in my head, my abdomen, or just plain make me sick and exhausted. I am the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to food. But in many ways I am a lucky person. I haven’t been able to eat the typical American diet and I don’t have a lot of the typical American diseases. (such as obesity, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes)

I don’t tell you this to get accolades or say I am so great. No, my healthy diet was mainly by default in the beginning. I liked the junk food. I just couldn’t handle it. Later, as I read more and learned more, I ate healthy by design. Having grown up on Rice Krispy Treats, all things Nestle, Rice a Roni, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Skippy Peanut Butter, McDonald’s and Wonder Bread, I know what it’s like to try to wean off the processed foods and try to eat vegetables, fresh fruit, healthy grains, like brown rice, and be satisfied. In my case, I had a crash course in changing my diet. Still, it took a while to adjust to new tastes and learn how to be satisfied with less added sugar. But I can tell you IT CAN BE DONE! and your health and well being is worth it.

But How do you Know What’s Junk Food and What’s Healthy Food?
According to Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner, the NuVal nutritional scoring system may be the ticket to simpler healthy eating. The NuVal system will analyze more than 50,000 food items found in a typical grocery store and assign a value of 1 to 100 to each item. The higher the score, the more nutritious is the food.

The system is the brainchild of Dr. David Katz, an Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, and the Director and founder of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz is an expert in nutrition and preventative medicine, the author of several books including The Flavor Point Diet, a syndicated health columnist for The New York Times and a medical contributor for ABC News.
Read more from Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner here

Dr. Katz says our taste buds are malleable and we are teaching them to crave salt and sugar. Eating added sugar in non-dessert items in everything from pasta sauce to breakfast cereal causes our taste buds to crave sugar much more than we normally would. In the video, he talks about how there is as much sodium in many breakfast cereals than your diet should be. It’s well worth the 4 minutes to watch Dr. Katz talk about how our diets are modified by the food supply and how we can retrain our taste buds to enjoy healthier less salty and less sugary foods.

Link to Dr. Katz’s video “Rehab Your Taste Buds: Getting Hooked on Wholesome Foods”

As American’s look to health care reform, there is a growing buzz about food system reform as well. Some say health care reform won’t work without reforming our nutritional system. The Nu Val system is one attempt to give us tools to reform our diets so we don’t NEED as much health care intervention. It’s Prevention versus Disease Treatment. And that sounds pretty sweet! Read Why Health Care Reform Requires Nutrition Reform by Margie King in the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

Working Well Resources is a blog dedicated to providing information and commentary on wellness resources. We strive to help teach people how to move, work, exercise, eat and play  from a wellness perspective. We believe that if your body works well, YOU will work and live more effectively, with less pain and less limitations on your mobility.

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